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Julian Assange would be sent to America's most notorious prison if extradited, court hears

WikiLeaks founder faces up to 175 years in prison if convicted in the US

Madeline Roth
Tuesday 29 September 2020 22:50 BST
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would likely end up at the US' most notorious Supermax prison if he's extradited and convicted of espionage.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would likely end up at the US' most notorious Supermax prison if he's extradited and convicted of espionage. (AP)
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Julian Assange may wind up at one of the country's most notorious prisons if he is extradited to the US and convicted of espionage.

That's according to Maureen Baird, a former warden at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in New York, who testified in London on Tuesday as part of the weeks-long trial involving Mr Assange. The Wikileaks founder is fighting an extradition request from the US, where he faces criminal charges that carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

According to the Associated Press, Ms Baird told the court on Tuesday that Mr Assange would likely be sent to ADX Florence, the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, if he is convicted. Mr Assange, she explained, would need to be held under special administration measures (SAMs) because of national security concerns within the US government. Given those requirements, Ms Baird said the Colorado prison would be the "only place" for Mr Assange to serve his sentence, "unless there was a severe change in his medical status."

Ms Baird added that Mr Assange would likely face the worst prison conditions the US has to offer — conditions that she said "can have serious negative effects on an inmate's mental health." Under the SAMs measure, inmates spend most of the day confined in their cells with little contact with the outside world or fellow inmates.

The ADX Florence is currently home to notorious convicts like Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, 1993 World Trade Center mastermind Ramzi Yousef, and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski.

US authorities have accused Mr Assange, 49, of conspiring to hack government computers and violating espionage laws in connection with the release of confidential documents by WikiLeaks. His defense team has countered that the charges are a threat to press freedom and that Mr Assange is entitled to First Amendment protections. They have also said that Mr Assange suffers from mental health issues and would be a suicide risk if sent back to the US.

The extradition hearing is due to end this week after initial delays from the coronavirus pandemic.

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